Monday, February 17, 2014

Winning the Race: Tactical Monologue and Analysis of New Braunfels Road Race

By: Heath Blackgrove, Senior Consultant

"How do you win a bike race?" is a question I am often asked and the answer changes every race and situation but for myself the first thing I try to figure out what I have to do to win. What are my particular strengths and what do I have over the other riders I am with?  Reading the race and situation plays a big part and reading how the competitors are looking, feeling and their strengths and weaknesses and how to take advantage of them.
More often than not for me to win I have to be in a break, as bunch sprints are not my strength.  A lot of the time I will back myself sprinting in a small group, especially if everyone has been working with me.  Even if I know a better sprinter is in the group with me I will try to wear him out to make it a more even sprint.  The longer he’s working with me and more isolated the better my chances.  It’s often not so much who can put out the most numbers but who can do it at the right part of the race, the end, and the more tired a better sprinter is the more even it can be.  But nothing beats, for me, winning solo as it removes all chances of something going wrong in a sprint.

A great example of this was at the recent Tour of New Braunfels Road Race.  I was in a 4 man break (5 for a start but one rider flatted), for more than 2/3rds of the race.  With 2 riders from Elbowz Racing and no teammates from my Boneshaker Division 1 Racing Team I set about working well in the break but didn’t need to drive it as if it didn’t stay away I knew I had teammates in the bunch I could rely on. Because of this, I did no more than my share of the work as I didn’t need to be the one “driving” it.  While it was hard to hide in the cold windy conditions I did my best to eat and drink properly and do it as easy as possible when not taking my turn on the front.  Eating and drinking was vital on this particular day as the cold takes more fuel to keep the body pumping, and warm, and I wanted to keep my glycogen stores up so I had enough left for the push to the finish.

With under a third of the race to go the gap to the chasing group had come down a lot but by this stage I wanted the break to stick even though I was outnumbered.  We had all been working really well and I think we deserved the chance to race to win. Also, everyone was showing fatigue as the effort of the move began to show.  Luckily I had looked after myself pretty well and was able to up the intensity and we took time out of the chase again.

From here I turned my thoughts to what I had to do to win the race and made sure I had enough food and sugar in me for the last push.  I had faith in my sprint if it came down to it but really wanted to try to break up the group or go solo if possible, as it can be one of my strength’s in this situation and takes away the probability of a mistake or the unknown of a sprint.  It was hard to tell how good I was feeling, as by this stage we were all looking a bit tired. 

With the numbers advantage to Elbowz I was really waiting for them to attack and start the racing so I could get a gauge of what they’ve got left and possibly counter attack.  Unfortunately this attack wasn’t coming so I turned my thoughts to trying to attack at the right time.  For me this would be on an uphill when the pace would drop a bit and I was at the back so I could use a bit of the element of surprise to start a gap.  This never came either, making it clear to me they were tired. 

In the end, on a slight rise while mid group I could wait no longer and had to go with a full out attack. (I couldn’t wait any longer as if I was caught I wanted enough time to be able to try again).   With a full sprint out of the saddle, another 30sec+ full gas in the saddle the gap opened up and I was able to keep an eye my power and make sure I didn’t go too far above my lactate threshold and risk blowing up.  Thankfully this was enough, and the closer we got to the finish the better my chances and more the small gap I had meant.  If I have 10-15sec with a mile to go that’s 10-15sec+ faster the chase has to be going to catch me in a mile, which adds up to a lot of speed, unless I blow up!  While the numbers weren’t through the roof by any standards it’s often more about being able to produce the right numbers at the right time and thankfully on this day all my best numbers came when it mattered, at the end.

the race winning attack

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Making the most of winter: Fat Biking

Grant Harrison, MSE. Source Endurance Senior Consultant

Winter in the midwest is tough to train in, especially the Great Lakes region where ice and snow make riding the road all but impossible. Many people turn to road and gravel riding,  or enduring the harsh elements on the roads they are used to riding in warmer months. Others take to cross country skiing, cross training at the gym or just riding the trainer indoors. These options have their limitations and benefits, but there is another option worth considering: fatbiking.

Fatbiking can be an excellent training tool for road and mountain bikers and a great way to put in training hours (dress appropriately). A unique element to fatbiking is that there is much less coasting; Resistance is increased by the larger surface area of the tires in contact with the snow, especially when tire pressures are lowered to accommodate the deeper snow. Greater resistance equates to a more constant application of force needed to keep the bike moving. Arguably one of the greatest challenges can be staying upright and moving if the bike ventures off of the packed trail and into deeper snow. Although the chances of washing out are much less compared to a mountain bike, it can be demanding to stay upright in snow deeper than 6 inches. Not only are the bikes made sluggish by the tires, but they are heavy and take more effort to maneuver. These element makes fat-bike riding a great option for endurance rides as well as an opportunity to work on bike handling skills and on-bike agility. 

With more fatbikes being produced and the sport gaining popularity, there are more and more races being held. Many fatbikers in the upper midwest are looking forward to the Fat Bike Birkie in Cable, WI on March 8th, held in conjunction with the American Birkebeiner ski races. This year’s Fat Bike Birkie is home to the U.S. National Fat Bike Championship and is part of the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series and the Wisconsin State Fat-Bike Race Series. This year the event has almost doubled in capacity, capping attendance at 500 riders; Last year’s event maxed out at  300 riders.

Smaller fatbike races are popping up all across the country. The Freewheel Frozen Frolic 2014, a three race series held in the Minneapolis/St.Paul area, is a small but well-liked first year event. The remaining two races will be held February 8th and March 1st. Also in the northern midwest is the Sweaty Yeti held at Levis Mound Trail System near Neilsville, WI on March 1st, as well as the Winona Snow Bomb in Winona, MN on February 8th. Other growing events such as the Moose Brook Fat Bike Race in Gorham, NH, as well as the Tennessee Pass Night Jam in Leadville, CO, give cyclists an opportunity to take on a new and challenging discipline.

I know what you’re thinking: It’s another bike to buy. But if you’re just looking to try it out, a basic fatbike can be purchased for less than $1,000.  As far as gear is concerned, like anything else, it’s as simple or as complicated as you make it. If you already have outdoor winter gear, you are pretty much set.

Although there are some major differences between fatbiking and road riding, fatbiking presents an opportunity to put in base miles, work on force-endurance production, and overall bike handling skills without the windchill and/or epic boredom. While maintaining motivation heading into the spring road racing season is critical, taking up fatbiking might be the solution.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Nutritional considerations to performance: Beet juice and Nitrate supplementation

 By: Grant Harrison, MS. Source Endurance Senior Consultant

When you look back at how you won your last race, you probably think about all the hard work in training that led you up to that point, how well you and your teammates read the race, or perhaps a tactically sound move that put you atop the podium. We are quick to give credit to the more tangible elements to training and racing but what about our diet? Most of us have never said, “My diet was awesome, my teammates put me in a good spot to win, and my training was effective,” right?
On a daily basis, the types, quantities, and qualities of foods we eat have an effect on the intensities or durations at which we are able to train and race. Most cycling and endurance sport athletes have a good understanding of how to fuel their workouts and how to be good stewards to their body through diet. That said, the importance of proper nutrition and supplementation should not be undermined as optimal performance hinges on a balanced diet and proper supplementation.  Nutritional supplements have made their way into endurance sports as we understand how many of them directly affect how well we are able perform.

Recently, an emerging body of research has looked at the effectiveness of beetroot juice and/or nitrate supplementation as a way to improve performance. As dietary nitrate supplementation has shown to reduce resting blood pressure. Dietary nitrates have also shown to increase muscle blood flow, regulation of muscular contractions, glucose uptake, and cellular respiration.
Building upon these findings, recent research has focused on how dietary nitrate supplementation may improve sub-maximal exercise, sever maximal exercise, and exercise at altitude.

During sub-maximal intensity exercise, the effects of a 6-day nitrate supplementation have shown reduced VO2 (volume of oxygen consumed) when compared to a nitrate deficient placebo. What this means is that our muscles are more efficient at producing energy aerobically and therefore are able to perform more work at any given sub-maximal level of oxygen consumption. Figure 1. shows the data collected by Muggeridge, et al. (2014)

The same study had participants perform a 10-Km time trial under the same conditions as time to completion and power were measured across the placebo and nitrate supplementation groups. The results of the study showed significant differences in both power and time to completion between the two groups (Figure 2.).

Another study conducted by Kelly, J., Vanhatalo, A., Wilkerson, D., Wylie, L., and Jones, A., (2013), also analyzed the effects of nitrate supplementation on four different severe-intensity exercise bouts all to exhaustion. Three of the four exercise bouts elicited a significant difference between the nitrate supplementation group and the placebo group (figure 3.) with the most intense exercise bout not showing statistical significance though an improvement was observed for the nitrate supplement group.

The results from these studies should give athletes a solid reason to investigate the performance benefits of beetroot juice and/or nitrate supplementation. Like any other product, the consumer should seek out a product that works best for them with the least amount of drawbacks. Given the apparent scientific consensus that beetroot juice and nitrate supplements lead to increases in performance, it would be expected that many endurance athletes will use dietary nitrate products not only in acute doses, but as a regular staple to improve overall health and effectiveness of training. Finally, Muggeridge, D., et al (2014), propose that NO- production as a direct consequence of dietary nitrate supplementation may offset the
reduction in NO- during hypoxia and minimize the negative consequences on exercise performance at altitude. Muggeridge also contends that individuals living in low altitude locations would seek the most benefit from supplementing as NO- levels tend to be elevated in high-altitude dwellers.

As many products exist on the market for this supplement, Source Endurance client Chris Lowry of La Crosse, WI has been enjoying the benefits of beetroot in its organic form. Lowry incorporates an amino acid blend with raw organic juiced beets and other fruits before and after his workouts.

Cermak, N., Gibala, M., & Van Loon, L., (2012). Nitrate Supplementation's Improvement of 10-km time-trial performance in trained cyclists. International Journal Of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism, 22(1), 64-71.

Kelly, J., Vanhatalo, A., Wilkerson, D. P., Wylie, L. J., & Jones, A. M. (2013). Effects of nitrate on the power-duration relationship for severe-intensity exercise. Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise, 45(9), 1798-1806.

Larsen F., Ekblom B., Sahlin K., Lundberg J., Weitzberg E. (2006) Effects of dietary nitrate on blood pressure in healthy volunteers.The New England Journal of Medicine, 355:2792–3.

Muggeridge, D., F. Howe, C., Spendiff, O., Pedlar, C., James, P., & Easton, C., (2014). A single dose of beetroot juice enhances cycling performance in simulated altitude. Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise, 46(1), 143-150.

Stamler JS, Meissner G. (2001) Physiology of nitric oxide in skeletal
muscle. Physiology Review. 81:209–37.

Webb A., Patel N., Loukogeorgakis S., et al. (2008) Acute blood pressure
lowering, vasoprotective, and antiplatelet properties of dietary

nitrate via bioconversion to nitrite. Hypertension, 51:784–90.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Compression Garments: The Verdict

By: John Hobbs, MS. Source Endurance Senior Consultant

While most of the data indicate that the use of compression garments does not provide an advantage, there are a handful that do show possible benefits.  It is important, however, to tease out the possible causes and evaluate the efficacy of the items.

                For instance, Bringard, Perrey and Reaburn (2006) found that running economy may be improved with the use of compression stocking during exercise.  However, this study was done with athletes running at 80% of VO2max with no performance measurements.  Additionally, the cause for the change in economy could not be attributed to a specific mechanism. 

                Another example are the decreased levels of creatine kinase that have been reported with the use of compression garments (Dufield and Portas 2007).  What exactly does this mean?  Basically, creatine kinase is an enzyme only found inside cells.  When a muscle becomes damaged, some of the contents are released in to the blood.  As a result, levels of enzymes normally found in the cells increases in the circulation.  Creatine kinase measurements are often used to help diagnose a heart attack.  When the heart muscle is damaged, the levels of the enzyme specific to cardiac muscle spike.  The same principal applies to muscle damaged with exercise.  In the cited study, the cricket players wore the garments during and after exercise.  As a result, it cannot be distinguished if the decreased creatine kinase levels is a result of improved blood flow, and therefore clearance of the enzyme, or a decrease in muscle damage through some other mechanism, preventing a possible increase from even occurring.  Additionally, the difference in enzyme levels is not consistently seen when compression garments are implemented (Jakeman, Byrne, & Eston 2010; Duffield et al, 2008; Duffield, Cannon, & King, 2010).  This, coupled with the fact that no differences in lactic acid and muscle pH at various time periods after exercise (Duffield et al., 2008) indicate that the use of compression stockings does not alter circulation to provide a recovery benefit.

                Another more commonly reported benefit of wearing compression garments is a decreased perceived muscle soreness (Dufield & Portas 2007; Jakeman, Byrne, & Eston 2010; Pruscino, Halson, & Hargreaves 2013; Ali, Cane & Snow 2008).  This has several implications.  First, the mechanism by which delayed onset muscle soreness occurs can cause a decrease in muscle force generation for up to two weeks.  This can have effects on future performance if events are scheduled close together as well as the ability to perform workouts if maximal efforts are required.  Jakemen, Byrne, and Eston (2010) added evidence to this recovery benefit with data showing that exercise performance benefited with compression garments worn in recovery.  It must be noted, however, the study participants were active, exercising three times a week, but not well trained athletes.  This leads to questioning if the gain was seen due to the training status, especially when coupled with the other cited studies that found  decreased muscle soreness as the only benefit.  Additionally, Dufield, Cannon, and King (2010) found that there were no differences in muscle twitch properties when the garments are worn for recovery, essentially showing that while the individual feels less sore, there is actually no change in performance .  With this however, these still is a benefit if perceived soreness is decreased.  Psychologically, an athlete may be better off.  For instance, a stage racer may be more aggressive or have better planning in pre-race preparation if they are less sore.  Additionally, the motivation to complete hard workouts can lack at times, especially with fatigue. Increased muscle soreness may affect adherence to an athlete’s training plan.  While, this benefit is not physiological or directly related to performance, it is still a benefit.

                The extent to which these garments have been evaluated is well beyond the scope of these articles.  Additional studies showing possible benefits have been published along with data further discounting the efficacy of compression garments in endurance athletes.  Understanding the physiological mechanism of action as well as the population the compression stockings were originally applied to can assist a person in understanding why the use of the garments likely does not provide a benefit to healthy athletes.

Ali, A., Caine, M., & Snow, B. (2007).  Graduated compression stockings: Physiological and perceptual responses during and after exercise. Journal of Sports Sciences, 25(4): 413 – 419
Bringard, A., Perrey, S., & Belluye, N. (2006).  Aerobic energy cost and sensation responses during submaximal running exercise –positive effects of wearing compression tights.  Int J Sports Med 2006; 27: 373–378

Duffield, R., Cannon, J., King, M. (2010).  The effects of compression garments on recovery of muscle performance following high-intensity sprint and plyometric exercise.  Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 13 (2010) 136–140

Duffield, R., Edge, J., Merrells, R., Hawke, E., Barnes, M., Simcock, D., & Gill, N. (2008).  The Effects of Compression Garments on Intermittent Exercise Performance and Recovery on Consecutive Days.  International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2008, 3, 454-468

Duffield, R., Portlus, M. (2007).  Comparison of three types of full-body compression garmentson throwing and repeat-sprint performance in cricket players.  Br J Sports Med 2007;41:409–414. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2006.033753

Jakeman, J., Byrne, C., & Eston, R. (2010).  Lower limb compression garment improves recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage in young, active females.  European Journal of Applied Physiology, 109, Issue 6, pp 1137-1144

Montgomery, P., Pyne, D., Hopkins, W., Dorman, J., Cook, K., & Minahan, C. (2008).  The effect of recovery strategies on physical performance and cumulative fatigue in competitive basketball.  Journal of Sports Sciences, September 2008; 26(11): 1135–1145

Pruscino, C., Halson, S.,  & Hargreaves, M.  (2013). Effects of compression garments on recovery following intermittent exercise.  Eur J Appl Physiol (2013) 113:1585–1596 DOI 10.1007/s00421-012-2576-5

Scanlan, A., Dascombe, B.,  Reaburn, P.,  & Osborne, M. (2008). The Effects of Wearing Lower-Body Compression Garments During Endurance Cycling.  International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2008, 3, 424-438

Sperlich, B., Haegele, M., Achtzehn, S., Linville, J., Holmberg, H., & Mester, J. (2010).  Different types of compression clothing do not increase sub-maximal and maximal endurance performance in well-trained athletes.  Journal of Sports Sciences, 28, Issue 6, 2010

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Compression Garments: Moving Into Athletics

By: John Hobbs, MS. Source Endurance Senior Consultant

                Previously, we discussed the mechanism by which compression garments aid people from a healthcare perspective as well as how their mechanism of action may not work in athletes.   However, as often seen in science and medicine, tools can be employed in ways not originally intended with great benefit. This is often due to some other mechanism of action.  So, appropriately, the data assessing the actual efficacy of the tool is important.  As a result, we review several recent studies regarding the use of compression garments as training and recovery tools.
                Very little evidence can be found in recent literature supporting the use of compression stockings during or after exercise.  Studies vary from compari
ng explosive type movements to submaximal endurance activity.  For instance, Dufield and Portlus (2007) had cricket players wear compression garments with sprinting and throwing exercise.  No benefit was seen in a second round of testing in sprint, throwing and submaximal exercise performance.  This has been confirmed when looking at training with repeated bouts of high intensity activity (Duffield et al. 2008; Pruscino, Halson, & Hargreaves 2013).  Measuring common physiological variables, researchers have shown a lack of benefit when comparing VO2max and blood lactate levels when the garments are worn during exercise.  Further, there was no difference in performance in well trained athletes when comparing compression stockings, socks, and whole body garments (Sperlich et al. 2010).
                Commonly, as coaches we emphasize the principal of specificity in training.  This is the idea that training has to be tailored to the sport and specific to its demands.  Scientific literature also falls under this principal when evaluating variables.  And as such, research specific to endurance performance has been done to evaluate the effectiveness of compression garments.  Ali, Cane, and Snow (2010) found that 10K run performance was not affected when compression garments were worn during the event. More specific to cycling, no benefit was seen during time trial performance.  Additionally, a positive effect under the theory of improved circulation was not seen in regards to lactate threshold, VO2, heart rate, and gas exchange at the working muscle (Scanlan, Dascombe, Reaburn, & Osborne 2008).  And while not performed with endurance sports, the work of Montgomery et al. (2008) evaluated the efficacy of the garments under three day tournament conditions with basketball players.  This would be similar to a stage race or a weekend with racing on consecutive days.  Again, a benefit with compression garments as a recovery modality was not seen.  This is especially true when compared to cold water therapy, which, in itself has its own strengths and weaknesses.

                With the bulk of the data showing a lack of support for the use of compression garments, it is important to note that there have been studies showing possible benefits.  Several of these studies, their applicability to competition, as well as issues with the designs and finding will be evaluated in the next posting.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Compression Garments, Part I: Before they were used for sport

By John Hobbs, MS. Senior Consultant

                Working in the complimentary fields of medicine and exercise physiology can provide insight in to new ideas and products.   It can also aid in teasing out how the theories behind various practices are developed.  An example of this is the use of compression garments to aid recovery and increase performance.  While increased recovery or enhance performance, regardless of the mechanism of action, is beneficial, a review of literature reveals little data supporting the benefit of compression garments in athletes.  Over the next several postings, the efficacy of compression stocking use in athletes will be evaluated.
                Compression garments are not new devices.  Their use in medicine has been wide spread for a number of years.  Forms vary from tight stockings covering from the calf and thigh to pneumatic devices that contract and release at programmed intervals.  The most common use is to prevent clots from forming in individuals with circulation issues.  Essentially, a pooling of blood can occur in the limbs called venostasis.  This pooling is a prime environment for small clots to form as the blood sits in place.  When an event occurs that allows the pooled blood to be pushed back to the heart, these clots can then cause strokes, pulmonary embolisms, and heart attacks.  This is the same mechanism that prompted walking and moving around in an airplane on long flights.  By compressing the limbs with appropriate garments, venous return can then be improved and therefore significantly reduce stroke and heart attack risk non-invasively.

                A key factor in this, however, is the role of an individual’s mobility.  The mechanism by which blood returns to the heart is called the skeletal muscle pump.  As a muscle contracts, the veins are compressed causing blood to be pushed under pressure.  It then moves towards the heart due to a series of valves in the vasculature.  These essentially make the veins one-way as they shut if blood tries to go the wrong way.  The valves are similar to airport security-- once you pass it, you can’t go backwards, but instead, have to circulate all the bay back around.
                Compression garments are not a standard issue item when a patient enters a hospital or other health care facility.  Rather, they are used in patients with severely impaired mobility.  This can include degenerative diseases, stroke, or simply being too weak to move.  Essentially, these individuals no longer have an effective skeletal muscle pump.  But, if or when mobility returns, the use of the garments is discontinued.  This can include a patient simply being able to walk to the bathroom or self-propel using their legs in a wheelchair.  I’ve even seen cases where physicians made a deal with patients that if they walked to the nursing station once every two hours they are awake, the order for the garments would be removed.  The key factor in this is the small amount of mobility required to negate the need for the garments. 

                Contrast this with the athlete population.  The skeletal muscle pump is used throughout exercise.  Then, after a workout, these individuals are able to move around normally, typically without any form of venous insufficiency.  With these facts, it appears that the method of action used in ill patients would not be applicable in healthy athletes.  However, since strenuous exercise may alter some bodily functions as well as the fact that a secondary mechanism of action may exist, it is still important to assess the data to see if benefits are seen as we will do in future postings.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Psychological skills, coaching, and performance of cyclo-cross athletes

By: Grant Harrison, MS; Senior Consultant

Cyclo-cross is one of the most unique cycling disciplines there are. It could be muddy, snowy, sandy, hilly, rocky, and potentially all within the same race. Also common is the need to traverse parts of the course on foot, bike in hand. The overall look, feel, and ambiance of a cross race seem to leave the racers and spectators alike, thinking there must be something more to this than just being in great shape. Like many races before, my first cross race was no different when I truthfully stated, “That was the hardest thing I have ever done”.  Given the unique demands of cross, I wanted to know more about what it takes to excel at cross. Specifically, what makes a cyclo-cross athlete successful and how do psychological skills, experience, and coaching influence performance. These questions led me to conduct a study that compared the psychological skills, elements of experience, and coaching, to the performance of athletes competing in the 2013 cyclo-cross national championships.

As psychological skills are not a physiological or performance measure, they are much harder to quantify. However, there is no doubt that psychological skills for better or worse, contribute to performance. Mental preparation, anxiety coping, confidence, concentration, motivation, goal setting, and relaxation are all psychological skills we may have or use. Previously, no research had investigated the comparison of psychological skills of cyclo-cross athletes or had examined the relationship between psychological skills, performance, and coaching of cyclo-cross athletes.
Photo: Grant Harrison

In gauging psychological skills, a brief survey known as the Athletic Coping Skills Inventory-28 (ASCI-28) was used to measure psychological skills on the sub-scales of coachability, concentration, confidence & motivation, coping with adversity, freedom from worry, goal setting & mental preparation, and peaking under pressure. In this study, coaching was measured by whether or not an athlete currently had a coach or had a coach in the past, and then by how long they have worked with a coach. Many other variables such as frequency of communication with a coach, and commitment to the discipline of cyclo-cross were also asked of each participant. These psychological skills, experience in the sport, and involvement with coaching were all compared along with each participating athletes performance in their highest priority race.

One of the many ways that coaches may help athletes is in helping athletes set appropriate goals and objectives. A preliminary analysis of the results found a correlation between being coached and goal-setting. Additionally, coached and goal-setting were both positive predictors of performance. So not only did coaching help athletes set more goals, but they performed better! Correlated with goal-setting, were confidence & motivation and concentration, however other sub-scales did not show to be correlated with goal-setting.  Although coaching demonstrated to be a positive predictor of goal-setting, coaching was negatively associated with freedom from worry. In other words, athletes who were coached reported to set more goals, but also worried more about their performance. Consequently the same athletes who had coaches, and performed better, also reported a higher commitment to the sport, which seems a likely explanation for the higher levels of worry. Among the other psychological sub-scales, surprisingly no other variables were significant predictors of performance.  Among other variables measured performance was predicted by years experience as expected, and of the coached athletes, frequency of communication with a coach also predicted performance.

So what do these findings tell us in terms of psychology? First of all, working with a coach should help athletes more clearly define their goals as supported by the study. Beyond goal-setting, there is an apparent need for coaches to strengthen athletes’ mental skills in addition to physical ability. This might involve role-playing, use of imagery, or other techniques that influence how an athlete responds to certain situations. Clearly, being race ready and seeing results will be motivating and help instill confidence, but it may be just as important to strengthen the mental skills that help an athlete overcome adversity or defeat.  As supported by this study, more successful athletes are in continual communication with a coach. In this case the word “communication” may be interchangeable with “reinforcement”.  With every experience that an athlete goes through, there is an opportunity to be influenced by its’ outcome, as coaching may be an excellent way to help an athlete identify what should be taken out of each experience. Ultimately, the findings of the study support that the highest performers in cyclo-cross, have experience and seem to possess stronger psychological skills that may be influenced by the presence of a coach.

Editor note: This article is written as a reference to Mr. Harrison's master's thesis.  His thesis will be posted to the Source Endurance website soon so stay tuned.